Over 50% of Patients Opt Out of Bariatric Surgery

Author: American College of Surgeons - Contact: facs.org
Published: 2014/11/03 - Updated: 2020/12/01
Peer-Reviewed: N/A
On This Page: Summary - Main Article - About/Author

Synopsis: More than half of obese patients opt out of bariatric surgical procedure process despite being in a publicly funded health care program. We often see patients who are older in life come to us with a spectrum of co-morbidities, like diabetes and osteoarthritis, as a result of their obesity. Studies have shown that bariatric operations can alleviate chronic health issues like diabetes and arthritis for extremely obese people.


Main Digest

Researchers from the University Health Network in Toronto are hoping to improve the operational efficiency of bariatric surgery programs to increase access to care.

Studies have shown that bariatric operations can alleviate chronic health issues like diabetes and arthritis for extremely obese people. Now the University Health Network researchers are trying to determine why many patients who are referred for a bariatric operation do not ultimately have the procedure performed, despite being in a publicly funded health care program. Findings from their single-site study are published in the November issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

For people who are severely obese, bariatric operations can provide a "treatment modality for obesity," the study authors noted. Severe obesity means the person has a basal metabolic index (BMI) of 40 or greater. That's about 240 lbs for a 5-foot, 5-inch person, according to the U.S. Center's for Disease Control BMI calculator.

"We often see patients who are older in life come to us with a spectrum of co-morbidities, like diabetes and osteoarthritis, as a result of their obesity," said Fayez Quereshy, MD, MBA, FRCSC, staff surgeon at the University Health Network in Toronto and a senior author on the study.

Osteoarthritis, in particular, can make exercise-induced weight loss difficult because patients are often in too much pain to exercise,. People with a BMI of 35 or higher may also be candidates if they also have one or more chronic conditions. The person's primary care physician may refer him or her for a bariatric surgical procedure for those reasons.

At the University Health Network's program, patients then go through several assessments, including an orientation followed by a nursing consultation, a nutrition class and dietitian assessment, and an evaluation by a social worker. They are then evaluated by a psychologist and have a final consultation with the surgeon before actually undergoing the procedure. At each of these steps in the process, clinical experts evaluate whether the patient is a candidate for the procedure.

However, many patients don't make it through the orientation process. Dr. Quereshy and his colleagues collaborated with University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management to identify which patients were more likely to quit the program and when.

The researchers analyzed data on 1,644 patients who were referred to the university's bariatric surgery program between June 2008 and July 2011. Among them, only 45 percent actually became bariatric surgical patients. Among those who didn't, 30 percent didn't even make it to the patient orientation session, the first step after getting the physician referral.

But it's not because patients are being turned away. "...The majority of attrition appears to be the result of patient self-removal," the authors wrote.

Least Likely Candidates

The patients who were least likely to have the operation included:

Next Steps

For this Canadian study, payment is not an issue, since the authors studied surgical candidates for these procedures in a publicly funded program. So Dr. Quereshy said that the next step is to ask one question about the patients who drop out: Why? This step includes qualitative research to understand which factors lead candidates to not have the operation. Knowing why patients drop out could save resources for the hospital and prevent disappointment for the patients.

Dr. Quereshy and his colleagues are currently testing whether a 40-question patient survey, to be completed before orientation, will help identify patients at risk for not having the operation. Then, the evaluation experts can get the patient the proper support upfront to help them through the process to the procedure.

"If a patient has signs and symptoms of depression, for example," Dr. Quereshy said, "we can make sure he or she sees the psychiatrist first."

In addition to saving hospital resources, this step could also prevent patients from experiencing a disappointing blow.

"This operation is not a cosmetic procedure. It is medically necessary to help with other significant medical issues," Dr. Quereshy said. "Imagine being told after a year, 'Sorry, you're actually not a candidate.' If that's going to happen, I'd rather tell the patient at day 10, rather than at day 300."

Adam Diamant, MSc, Joseph Milner, PhD, Michelle Cleghorn, MSc, Sanjeev Sockalingam, MD, FRCPC, Allan Okrainec, MD, MHPE, FRCSC, FACS, Timothy D Jackson, MD, MPH, FRCSC, FACS, also participated in this study. Citation: Journal of the American College of Surgeons, November 2014: Vol. 219 (5) 1047-1055.


This quality-reviewed article relating to our Surgery and Operations section was selected for publishing by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Over 50% of Patients Opt Out of Bariatric Surgery" was originally written by American College of Surgeons, and published by Disabled-World.com on 2014/11/03 (Updated: 2020/12/01). Should you require further information or clarification, American College of Surgeons can be contacted at facs.org. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.


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